Red Sox Journal
Wildcard Woes, September 20, 2011
"They Died (maybe) With Their Cleats On" is a great subtitle for the woes of September.
The six month marathon of four game series and doubleheaders has come to this, a sprint to the finish line for the Red Sox, only leading by two lengths, after losing 3 out of 4 to the trailing Tampa Bay Rays for the Wildcard.
Injuries to Kevin Youkilis and Clay Buchholz (and Josh Beckett on and off this year) have flattened the Red Sox somewhat, as they have lost 8 games in the standings to the Yankees since the all-star break, when they were pennant favorite frontrunners. Now they are hanging on by a thread, with 10 games left to play and a doubleheader tomorrow against the AL East punching bag, the Baltimore Orioles.
Injuries to star players can only explain so much, as surprising power numbers from Jacoby Ellsbury (27 H.R.) and surprising offensive seasons that exceeded expectations for Jarrod Saltalamacchia at catcher (15 H.R.) and Marco Scutaro at shortstop (.288 average) have tempered those losses somewhat. What is alarming is Adrian Gonzalez's drop-off at the plate in the last two months, and the bullpen collapse, lead by Daniel Bard, who has lost 5 decisions in a row, ominous for a pitcher who only comes in games to hold the lead.
The last three years, (four including this season) the Rays, Red Sox and Yankees have played musical chairs, and but one has missed the playoffs each year. This doesn't seem to me to be fair, as the way the Rays have played, gaining 9 games on the Red Sox in September, they deserve to play into October, even more than the Tigers, Brewers, or D-Backs, winners of weaker divisions in baseball.
The new wildcard system, which will be voted on for next season, will pit the top two second place winners against each other in a one game playoff, would settle this dilemma, and I am one who is looking forward to it. I expect a lot of "purists" will be balking at it, but the fact is that several of the division winners are inferior to the 3rd place Rays.
It's not yet time to look ahead to Patriots Sundays, as the Red Sox will likely be playing October baseball, but with its putrid record against likely playoff opponent Texas, they might make a swift exit, unless they can pull it together, and regain Youkilis and Buchholz at close to optimum strength. Even if they can get past the Rangers and Yankees/Tigers in the playoffs, they would still face the juggernaut, who would throw pitchers Cliff Lee, Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt, and Cole Hamels at any opposing team in the World Series. They are favorites to win it all with their rotation, which doesn't even account for Philadelphia's great offense, and the fact that the AL Pennant winner will be playing 4 games without the DH.
— Roman Llimar